Tuesday 24 April 2018

What happens if an employee refuses to sign a contract issued years after they joined?

Explain that the company has a requirement to provide the contract of employment
Explain that the company has a requirement to provide the contract of employment

Caroline McEnery

Q I have an employee with me for years but never gave them a contract of employment. I gave it to him recently but he won't sign it. What can I do?

A The Terms of Employment (Information) Acts 1994-2014 provide that you as an employer are obliged to provide your employees with a written statement of terms of employment within the first two months of the commencement of employment. Firstly, you have complied with this legislation in that you have given your employee the contract. However, the time frame in which to comply with the legislation has been missed by you.

Your employee has refused to sign the issued contract of employment. This is not a major issue and can be dealt with correctly to ensure your business is protected and you maintain a good working relationship with your employee. However, we are not clear on why the employee has refused to sign, which is necessary to know to try to resolve. For example, it could be the wording he doesn't understand or maybe his rate of pay is wrong and not what he is currently on.

1 Meet Your Employee: Your next step is to speak with the employee. Make sure your meeting is held in private. Explain that the company has a requirement to provide the contract of employment. Ask the employee if he has any questions or concerns on the contract. Answer any queries the employee may have that you can on the documentation. If you do not know the answer, tell the employee you don't know rather than giving an incorrect answer and explain that you will come back to them once you find out.

2 Follow Up: Ask the employee to come back to you within a set time (i.e. a week) on whether he will sign the contract or not, or if he has any additional follow up questions. Ensure you enclose a deadline so that you can close this issue out in a timely manner. Make sure that you follow this meeting up in writing. This protects the company by showing you have met with the employee to hear his concerns provided and did everything you can to help him with this document.

3 Paper Trail: After the deadline given, if the employee still refuses to sign it is very important to make sure a confirmation letter / email is issued to the employee confirming the following:

  • A contract was issued in line with legislation.
  • You met to discuss any concerns. These were answered and the employee has still refused to sign.
  • Explain the letter confirms the terms and conditions of the employment which are currently in effect are within the contract of employment and the employee is expected to comply with it and the policies provided to him.

4 Content: From time to time we have met clients who use a standardised template for employment contracts from the internet that doesn't comply with Irish legislation. You don't note if your contract of employment complies with the legislation or if you received help from a HR Consultancy with the same.

This is a vital element in protecting your business and ensuring that your employees have received the correct documentation under the legislation in line with their current terms and conditions of employment. The Terms of Employment (Information) Acts 1994-2014 require that a contract of employment contains certain information.

To ensure the contract of employment is legally binding the company must ensure it is issued with a signature on behalf of the company.

This written statement should ideally be signed and dated by both parties.

The employer is also obliged to keep a copy of this for at least one year after the employee leaves the organisation.

5 Moving Forward: Now that you have your contract of employment in place it is vital that you set internal procedures to ensure all new employees are provided with their contract of employment on commencement or at least within their first three weeks so that your business is proactive moving forward.

Caroline McEnery is managing director of The HR Suite. You can contact their HR consultants on (01) 9014335 or (066) 7102887 or email them at info@thehrsuiteonline.com

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